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Ecmweb.com-Box Sizing Tips

Ecmweb.com-Box Sizing Tips

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ecmweb.com/code-basics/box-sizing-tips

Feb 16, 2015 by Mike Holt NEC Trainer / Consultant, Mike Holt Enterprises 949 Articles

So you go through all that work to correctly size your raceway, only to find out during the acceptance inspection that

you have to replace some boxes and re-pull all of the conductors. The client’s acceptance engineer proved this with

some calculations. “As a consolation, the new conductors will be easier for you to pull,” he told you.

Why must these boxes be so much bigger than the total raceway volume? How can you ensure you install boxes

that are big enough without wasting money on boxes that are unnecessarily big?

The answer to the first question depends upon the type of box. An outlet box, for example, needs sufficient room to

contain the connectors and provide sufficient free space for conductors, devices, and fittings. A pull box needs

enough room to permit pulling conductors without bending them so much that you damage the insulation.

The answer to the second question is what Art. 314 is all about. To break it down even further, Sec. 314.16 deals

with outlet, device, and junction boxes (as well as conduit bodies) for conductor sizes between 18 AWG and 6 AWG.

Section 314.28 is used for junction and pull boxes for conductor sizes 4 AWG and larger.

Fig. 1. The volume of a box includes the volume of its assembled parts that are marked with their cubic inches or are

made from boxes listed in Table 314.16(A).

The volume of a box is the total volume of its assembled parts, including plaster rings, raised covers, and extension

rings. The total volume includes only those parts that are marked with their volume in cubic inches [314.16(A)] or

included in Table 314.16(A) (Fig. 1).

1/8

When all of the conductors in an outlet box are the same size (insulation doesn’t matter), you can use Table

314.16(A) to determine the number of conductors permitted in the box or the box size required for the given number

of conductors.

Table 314.16(A) doesn’t consider switches, receptacles, luminaire studs, luminaire hickeys, internal cable clamps, or

equipment grounding conductors. If the box contains any of these, you must make allowances. Fortunately, the NEC

tells you what those allowances are. What you do is take each step of 314.16(B)(1) through (B)(5), then add the

results together to determine the total volume required.

Does it count?

When using Table 314.16(B), you don’t count all things the same way. Count these items as a single volume:

• One or more internal cable clamps, based on the largest conductor that enters the box.

• Each luminaire stud or luminaire hickey, based on the largest conductor that enters the box.

Fig. 2. When working with multiple grounding conductors in a box, you only need to account for the largest one of

the bunch.

• All (not each) equipment grounding conductors in a box, based on the largest equipment grounding conductor that

enters the box (Fig. 2).

2/8

• All insulated equipment grounding conductors for receptacles having insulated grounding terminals (isolated

ground receptacles) [250.146(D)].

• Each loop or coil of unbroken conductor that’s at least twice the minimum length required (12 in.) for free

conductors in Sec. 300.14 (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. The length of unbroken conductors plays a key role in the final number you account for in your box fill

calculations.

• Each single-gang device yoke (regardless of the physical size of the device), based on the largest conductor that

terminates on the device.

• Each multi-gang device yoke (for each gang), based on the largest conductor that terminates on the device.

• Cable connectors that have their clamping mechanism outside the box.

• Equipment grounding conductors and up to four 16 AWG and smaller fixture wires if they enter the box from a

domed luminaire or similar canopy, such as a ceiling paddle fan canopy.

• Wire connectors, cable connectors, raceway fittings, and conductors that originate and terminate within the outlet

box (e.g., equipment bonding jumpers and pigtails).

3/8

Sizing outlet boxes

(insulation isn’t a factor), follow these steps:

Step 1: Determine the number and size of conductor equivalents in the box.

Step 2: Determine the volume of the conductor equivalents from Table 314.16(B).

When insulated conductors 4 AWG or larger enter a pull box or junction box, you must calculate the box size. And

the calculation depends upon the type of pull (Fig. 4):

Fig. 4. Pull boxes, junction boxes and conduit bodies must be sized in accordance with Sec. 314.28.

1. A straight-pull is when conductors enter one side of a box and leave through the opposite wall. The distance

between those walls must be at least eight times the trade size of the largest raceway [314.28(A)(1)].

2. An angle pull is when conductors leave through a wall that’s 90° from the wall they came in on. The distance

between the entry wall and its opposite wall must be at least six times the trade size of the largest raceway, plus the

sum of the trade sizes of the remaining raceways on the same wall and row [314.28(A)(2)].

3. When a conductor enters and leaves from the same wall, that’s a U-pull. The distance from that wall to its

opposite wall must not be less than six times the trade size of the largest raceway, plus the sum of the trade sizes of

4/8

the remaining raceways on the same wall and row [314.28(A)(2)].

Step 3: Calculate the distance between raceways enclosing the same conductors.

Three other factors in this situation affect the minimum box size, also:

1. If any splices are in the box, then the distance to the opposite wall from where the raceways enter must be at

least six times the trade size of the largest raceway, plus the sum of the trade sizes of the remaining raceways on

the same wall and row.

2. Where there are multiple rows of raceway entries, calculate each row individually, and use the row with the largest

distance.

3. The distance between raceways enclosing the same conductor must be at least six times the trade size of the

largest raceway (measured nearest edge-to-nearest edge) [314.28(A)(2)]. But when conductors enter an enclosure

with a removable cover, the distance from where the conductors enter to the removable cover must be at least the

bending distance listed in Table 312.6(A) for one conductor per terminal.

And there’s one more factor. Some specialty cables have a very large bend radius; you might need a larger box

than your Art. 314 calculations indicate.

A junction box contains two trade size 3 raceways on the left side and one trade size 3 raceway on the right side.

The conductors from one of the trade size 3 raceways on the left wall are pulled through the trade size 3 raceway on

the right wall. The conductors from the other trade size 3 raceways on the left wall are pulled through a trade size 3

raceway at the bottom of the pull box. It is helpful to draw out the problem. See if you can correctly answer these

three questions:

5/8

Fig. 5. Follow the above calculations to determine the required horizontal dimension of this box.

Question 2: What’s the vertical dimension of a junction box having a trade size 3 raceway on the bottom of the

junction box with no raceways on the top of the box (Fig. 6)?

6/8

Fig. 6. Follow the above calculations to determine the required vertical dimension of this box.

Question 3: What’s the minimum distance between the two trade size three raceways containing the same

conductors?

Boxes serve many functions that raceways do not, so they require much more space than simply the sum of the

raceway volumes. A single box with insufficient interior space can cause the whole raceway system to fail inspection

or, worse, cause the circuit to catastrophically fail while in operation.

Outlet box sizing applies to every outlet box. But junction box and pull box calculations are required only when the

conductors are 4 AWG or larger; straight pulls, angle pulls, and U-pulls all affect how big that box must be.

However, other factors can determine the box size. For example, a specialty cable has a 40-in. bend radius so the

box must be large enough to permit installing that cable without exceeding that radius.

7/8

Holt is the owner of Mike Holt Enterprises, Inc. in Leesburg, Fla. He can be reached at www.mikeholt.com.

8/8

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